When your credit card is stolen, take action to minimize the damage a thief can do. While the process of handling the potential fallout from a stolen credit card can be time-consuming and frustrating, it's worth it to prevent a criminal from having free reign over your account and possibly other pieces of your identity.
Contact Your Creditor
Look on your billing statement or on the creditor's website for a number to call to report your lost or stolen credit cards. Call the creditor and report the card as stolen. Write down the date, time and name of the creditor's representative who helps you. You may need this information for a police report. The creditor will close your account and open up a new account with a new number. This action will prevent the thief from using your credit card to make purchases. If the thief has already used your old credit card, you may need to dispute the charges. Ask the credit card company for the details of the charges and instructions regarding the dispute process. Also, if you have any automatic payments associated with your credit card, notify each company of your new credit card account number.
File a Police Report
File a police report with your local police or the police in the area in which the theft occurred. Provide specific details regarding the theft, including the dates, times, merchants' names and amounts of any fraudulent charges that have appeared on the account. Also, provide documentation of your conversation with your creditor.
Add a Fraud Alert
If only one credit card was stolen and you are positive that none of your other personal information -- such as your Social Security number or date of birth -- was compromised, you may not want to add a fraud alert to your credit report. If your whole wallet was stolen or pieces of identifying information are missing, it's wise to file a fraud alert. A fraud alert will prevent an identity thief from opening a fraudulent account in your name. However, it may not stop a thief from using accounts that are currently open. A fraud alert also might make it difficult for you to open new credit accounts. Call one of the three major credit reporting agencies -- Experian, Equifax or TransUnion -- to initiate the alert. The credit agency you contact will alert the other two agencies on your behalf.
Monitor Your Credit Reports
Thirty days or so after having a fraud alert placed on your credit files, request a free copy of your credit report from all three agencies. When you place the fraud alert, you are entitled to free credit reports. However, do not request the credit reports immediately after the theft because any information relating to fraudulent activity won't have been updated. You can also get one free credit report each year from each credit reporting agency from the website called Annual Credit Report. Review your credit reports for any errors -- such as the wrong name or address -- suspicious inquiries or fraudulent accounts or charges.
Based in Texas, Cynthia Measom has been writing various parenting, business and finance and education articles since 2011. Her articles have appeared on websites such as The Bump and Motley Fool. Measom received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Texas at Austin.